Ella Fitzgerald's idea to sing the songbooks of major writers proved smart, savvy, and artful. By the time she began to record Sings the Harold Arlen Song Book
in 1960, she had sung the songbooks of Duke Ellington
, Rodgers & Hart
, and Irving Berlin
. This relaxed and tastefully arranged set showcases Fitzgerald in her prime, confidently engaging 28 of Arlen
's best songs. Familiar pieces like "One for My Baby" and "That Old Black Magic" make appearances, along with all-time classics like "Stormy Weather" and "Over the Rainbow." On this latter tune, she adds the front verses, an appealing addition that few will be familiar with. Billy May
's orchestra lays down a quiet mix of horns and strings that perfectly supports Fitzgerald on songs like "When the Sun Comes Out" and "Happiness Is a Thing Called Joe." Four bonus tracks, including two alternative cuts, spice up the package. A particular oddity, "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead," converts surprisingly well into big-band jazz. Sings the Harold Arlen Song Book
is an exquisite album, a classic in vocal jazz, and one of Fitzgerald's best recordings.